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Chambers failing to plan for changing legal landscape, BSB says

Despite the majority of chambers forecasting changes to the legal landscape over the next year, very few are creating business plans to help them adapt. A report by the Bar Standards Board (BSB) looking into 'high-impact chambers', reported that the bar also faces problems with cashflow, departing members, cyberattacks and a lack of commitment to diversity.

The BSB interviewed 170 chambers rated by the regulator as 'high impact' a label which measures how serious consequences would be for clients if something went wrong within those chambers.

Of those:

  • 65% said that factors such as cuts in public funding, new opportunities, competition and a downwards pressure on fees would force changes on the bar
  • a considerable number did not feel the need for a business plan, which the BSB said makes them less able to respond flexibly to risks and opportunities
  • 35% that did not see any changes were not able to evidence consideration of the environment in which they operate
  • 23 said they had experienced cashflow problems in the last year, although were confident closure was not imminent. But some chambers said they felt vulnerable to the departure of a significant proportion of their members, particularly where departing members did not settle amounts owed to chambers. In many cases aged debt, or the amount owed, in chambers was high, with the payment of referral fees being cited as one of the reasons for this
  • Lean staff structures' in many chambers leaves them at risk of fraud, with seven of the chambers interviewed reporting incidents. One chambers said a criminal had targeted a number of chambers and solicitors by gaining employment as a bookkeeper
  • The slimmer structure in chambers also leaves them at risk of cyberattacks. There is a wider concern that, in an increasingly technologically connected world, chambers are seen as a weak link in the supply chain


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